Construction Waste

Waste from unwanted materials is an almost inevitable bi-product of a fit-out project. A fit-out project could generate more than 5 tonnes of waste for every 100 sq m of floor space. This comes from strip-out, demolition and construction waste, as well as from packaging and damaged and unused materials. In addition to the adverse environmental impacts from resource depletion and waste disposal, there are significant financial costs associated with construction waste, which can be limited through efficient fit-out design and management.


Implementing a responsible construction waste and resource efficiency strategy can deliver multiple benefits:



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Principles for Reducing & Managing Construction Waste

1. Design for Re-use & Recovery


The re-use and recover of material will minimise new resources used and reduce strip-out waste. A pre-strip out audit is integral to this process to assess the potential for reusing elements of any existing fit-out. It is key that all reused materials will be of suitable quality and durable when considering the life cycle of the lease. Also see Materials & Furniture.

Note that for this step to be feasible, the owner and previous occupier will need to have agreed that the existing fit-out will not be (fully) stripped out.

2. Design for Off-site Construction


Off-site construction can reduce waste arising from over-ordering, damage and through less efficient methods of working on-site. Further benefits include reducing number of vehicle movements – helping to reduce traffic, noise, pollution and risks to cyclists and pedestrians at a local level. Prefabrication of components off site can also reduce the extent of on-site activities and so enable time savings.

3. Design for Materials Optimisation


Adopting a design approach that focuses on materials resource efficiency so that less material is used in the design i.e. Creating simple, coordinated and standardised designs that reduce excess off-cuts.

4. Design for Deconstruction & Flexibility


Ensure that components and materials support long-term adaptability, and are easily disassembled and recycled at the end of their lifecycle.

5. Set Waste Management Targets


Assess the option for contractual targets around waste. These should be  established early in the design process, and ideally include a specialist contractor to advice on maximising resource efficiency opportunities.

Targets could include:

  • % waste reused or recycled
  • % waste diverted from landfill
  • Tonnes of waste per 1003
  • Tonnes of waste per £100k

6. Use a Site Waste Management Plan


A Site Waste Management Plan (SWMP) should be prepared the design team before construction begins and will set the basis for the waste management requirements by the contractor. It should describe how materials will be managed efficiently and disposed of legally during the construction of the works, explaining how the re-use and recycling of materials will be maximised.

This involves estimating how much of each type of waste is likely to be produced and the proportion of this that will be re-used or recycled on site, or removed from the site for re-use, recycling, recovery or disposal.

The contractor should then:

  • Ensure that the requirements of the site waste management plan are included in sub-contracts.
  • Arrange suitable site induction, information and training of personnel to ensure that the plan is implemented.
  • Take all reasonable steps to prevent unauthorised disposal of the waste.
  • Update the plan as the works progress to reflect the actual handling of waste.

7. Embed Requirements in Contractor Scope of Works


All waste management requirements, including targets and use of a Site Waste Management Plan should be must be included within the contractors scope of works.

See Construction for further detail.  

Industry Monitoring Tools

BRE's SmartWaste is an environmental site monitoring and reporting software for construction projects covering waste, water, energy, transport, materials, biodiversity and incident & complaints. It allows input from a project's entire supply chain to provide 'live' reporting for the whole project team.

WRAP's Designing out Waste Tool for Buildings (DoWT-B) is a freely accessible resource that will help projects to:

  • identify opportunities to design out waste. 
  • Record design solutions pursued to reduce material consumption or wastage.
  • Calculate the impact of these solutions, including savings in project costs, waste to landfill and embodied carbon.
  • Compare the performance of different projects / alternative designs.
  • Provide an indicative waste forecast for a Site Waste Management Plan (SWMP).